The Doctor’s Daughter

Written by Shari J. Ryan
Review by K. M. Sandrick

In 1941, 16-year-old Sofia Amsler is quietly preparing for Shabbat in her family’s house near the Auschwitz concentration camp when she overhears Nazi soldiers tell her father he must give up his medical practice in Oświęcim, stop caring for his Polish patients, and start training young Waffen doctors. The “privileged marriage” between her Protestant father and Jewish mother protects Sofia from actions taken against other Jews, such as 16-year-old Isaac and his family, who have been forcibly moved from Krakow and imprisoned behind the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto.

In the months that follow, Isaac and his younger sister are arrested and sent to Auschwitz, Isaac joins a crew that is working the farmland just outside Sofia’s home, and Isaac and Sofia become involved in a plan of concealment and subterfuge.

With The Doctor’s Daughter, USA Today bestselling author Ryan adds to other similar volumes, such as The Bookseller of Dachau and The Girl with the Diary, an uplifting story of resilience and survival, warmth and tenderness. Yet, for this reader at least, the story is superficial, downplaying not only the conditions within the camp but also the brutality and indignities of daily life. Elements of the plot strain credulity, including the ease of Isaac’s movements outside the camp complex and the practicalities and realities of more than a year of living in an underground shelter, and characters are thinly drawn.

The Doctor’s Daughter may resonate with readers who are looking for a straightforward story set in the Nazi era. It most likely will not satisfy those, like this reader, seeking stories of troubled and challenged characters who nevertheless overcome horrors like those in the 1940s death camps.